Bruni v. City of Pittsburgh

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Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Description:  A Pittsburgh censorship zone ordinance allows the creation of hundreds of censorship zones throughout the city that ban leafleting and other free speech around the facilities of abortionists, eye doctors, dentists, and any “therapeutic,” “healing,” or “health-building” treatment services.

ADF returns to 3rd Circuit, argues Pittsburgh censorship zones suppress free speech

ADF attorneys available to media following oral arguments Wednesday
Tuesday, February 05, 2019

WHO: Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys

WHAT: Available for media interviews following oral arguments in Bruni v. City of Pittsburgh

WHEN: Wednesday, Feb. 6, immediately following hearing, which begins 3:00 p.m. EST

WHERE: U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, James A. Byrne United States Courthouse, 601 Market St., Philadelphia. Hearing will be held in The Albert Branson Maris Courtroom on the 19th floor.

PHILADELPHIA – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys challenging a Pittsburgh censorship zone ordinance will be available for media interviews immediately following oral argument Wednesday before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit. ADF attorneys appealed a district court decision that upheld the ordinance, even after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit expressed great concern over the buffer zones and reinstated ADF’s lawsuit challenging them.

“Peaceful, pro-life conversation simply can’t be censored on public sidewalks. Citizens have the freedom to share a message of hope and compassion with any mother seeking to make an informed choice about her pregnancy,” said ADF Legal Counsel Elissa Graves. “Pittsburgh politicians cannot censor or silence speech they dislike using buffer zones. As the Supreme Court recognized in its 2018 NIFLA decision, ‘[T]he people lose when the government is the one deciding which ideas should prevail.’”

The 3rd Circuit previously found in Bruni v. City of Pittsburgh that “the Ordinance imposes the same kind of burden on speech” as one the U.S. Supreme Court struck down in McCullen v. Coakley. Following that 2014 ruling, ADF attorneys successfully challenged similar censorship zones in Madison, Wisconsin.

“We’re asking the 3rd Circuit to apply what the Supreme Court made clear in 2014—that free speech receives the highest protection on public sidewalks,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot, who will argue before the court Wednesday. “The First Amendment doesn’t allow the government to ban life-affirming expression simply because some pro-abortion politicians or activists demand it. Pittsburgh can’t carve out public spaces where the Constitution doesn’t apply.”

ADF attorneys filed the lawsuit in 2014 on behalf of pro-life individuals who haven’t been allowed to speak or engage in sidewalk counseling within the zones. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto is enforcing the law, which he voted for as a city councilman in 2005.

Under the ordinance, no one may “knowingly congregate, patrol, picket or demonstrate in a zone extending 15 feet from any entrance to the hospital or health care facility” that the city designates. Health care facilities broadly and vaguely include any “establishment providing therapeutic, preventative, corrective, healing and health-building treatment services on an out-patient basis by physicians, dentists and other practitioners.”

Lawrence G. Paladin, Jr., one of more than 3,200 attorneys allied with ADF, is serving as local counsel in the case.
  • Pronunciation guide: Bruni (BROON’-ee), Theriot (TAIR’-ee-oh)

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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Additional resources: Bruni v. City of Pittsburgh

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Friday, April 13, 2018

Previous news releases:

  • 2018-04-13: ADF to 3rd Circuit: Pittsburgh censorship zones must go
  • 2018-01-12: Challenge to Pittsburgh censorship zones heads to appeals court again
  • 2017-11-16: Appeal likely of district court decision upholding Pittsburgh censorship zones
  • 2016-06-01: 3rd Circuit reinstates lawsuit against Pittsburgh censorship zones
  • 2015-11-05: ADF to 3rd Circuit: Pittsburgh censorship zones hurt women, violate free speech
  • 2015-03-26: ADF to 3rd Circuit: Pittsburgh censorship zones violate free speech
  • 2015-03-06: ADF considering appeal of ruling that keeps Pittsburgh censorship zones in place
  • 2014-12-02: Court to consider whether Pittsburgh can enforce censorship zones
  • 2014-09-05: ADF files suit against Pittsburgh censorship zones

  • Greg Scott: Yes, Pittsburgh, the First Amendment applies to pro-life people, too (Ricochet, 2016-06-03)

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